What is newly crowned Dancing With the Stars champion J.R. Martinez going to do with his mirror ball trophy? "I'm gonna put mine in bed. I'm gonna tuck it in, and it's gonna roll around with me. And after that, I'm gonna glue it on the hood of my car and drive around Los Angeles honking my horn. It's gonna be my own parade."
Martinez may have waltzed off with the big win, and a sparkling souvenir, but he is far from the only winner this season. Personal and professional victories abound, among them:
Karina Smirnoff, Martinez's pro partner, who scored her first big win and completely softened her tough cookie, tough Russian image. She has always been a spectacular dancer. But being around an Iraqi war vet humbled her and left her in awe. "He makes me want to be a better person," says Smirnoff. "When something is going on in my life and I don't know what to do, I now think, 'What would J.R. do?'"
Rob Kardashian, who not only came in second, but made it okay to be a Kardashian. The self-described "loser brother" turned out to be the nicest, hardest working one of the bunch. Ask him if his experience with his family's brand of reality TV helped prepare him for the madness of Dancing, and he says, "No, this is a whole other world. This is channel 7 [as opposed to a high-numbered cable channel], ABC, 20 million viewers, live, and doing something that is completely outside my comfort zone. It was definitely an uncomfortable experience and I conquered all my fears."
Chaz Bono. No one conquered more fears than Bono, who never danced better than he did on Tuesday night in his return for the finale. "Because there were no judges!" he says, laughing. During the competition, Bono had become the poster boy for the transgender community and was terrified on the dance floor. "I was panicked every time I was out there," says Bono. "You just don't show it. You smile, but I was a wreck." And now that it's over? "You keep pushing through obstacles, and the pressure, and the nerves, and when you're done, you feel like you could do anything."
Carson Kressley, who was really never eliminated from the show. The style guru came back as the show's comedic reporter and cheerleader, in addition to becoming a Dancing commentator for Good Morning America. "My 15 minutes of fame has been a couple of hours, at least," says Kressley. "And this show really turned the tables on me. I was the one who got made over. I was the one who got to learn something new. I learned to be confident." This man who has given so much confidence to others needed to learn it himself? "In dancing? Yes!"
Tristan MacManus, the new pro who managed to handle the hottest potato of the bunch, HLN's outspoken and strong-willed Nancy Grace, with amazing deftness. Then, between his schoolboy good looks and his Irish brogue, he charmed everyone else in the bargain.